Students as Agents for Choosing the “Right Courses” A-G eligibility

Over the past two years, I have been invited to speak at countless parent meetings, department meetings, board meetings, community gatherings, and access conferences about our research and my experiences as a college access advocate for all students.

Through these encounters, I came to realize the vast majority of students, teachers, administrators, parents, and counselors are completely oblivious to the A-G course requirements. This is the second article about this issue. Here, let’s look at students as agents for choosing the “right courses” A-G eligibility.

Teachers are often entirely unaware of how their courses impact college access and a student’s ability to gain college eligibility. This is a powerful observation because it exposes two general assumptions that students and parents make about the high school’s role in supporting the path to college.

First Assumption – Students and parents assume that teachers and counselors at their high school are doing everything necessary to prepare students for college. Ultimately, public high schools are not designed for all students to attend a four-year university. Several times during my teaching career I have heard counselors say their job was to graduate students from high school and “not all students are supposed to go to college.” Unfortunately, those “not supposed to go” were often the first generation, urban students I worked with most closely.

Second Assumption – Students and parents assume that teachers, counselors, and administrators are experts about college access. Parents believe that school representatives are knowledgeable and well informed about the college access process. However, most teachers are unaware of the current admissions criteria. Further, the college access process is continually evolving.

Eligible and competitive admissions criteria change so rapidly that even those dedicated full time to working in college counseling offices, intervention programs, and admissions offices cannot keep up with the increase of competition to attend the most selective universities in America. From 2011 to 2014 alone, the emergence of the Golden State Exams, the Governor’s Merit Scholarship Program, an explosion of AP classes, and the additional “G” requirement on the A-G eligibility index further complicated the arena of college access.

What do we do about this institutional failure? I encourage all students and parents to become their own agents of college access. It is essential that students aggressively seek informed advocates on their campuses. In an ideal situation, every school would have several college access advocates including counselors, teachers, coaches, and administrators.

The best advice for all incoming high school students is to start “on track” to meet A-G eligibility and stay “on track” by successfully completing all courses with passing grades. However, since the school system is not structured for all students to be academically successful, it is important to have a set of strategies for getting back “on track.”

1. All A-G courses where a student earned a grade below a C need to be made up. This could mean retaking the class in the summer or the following semester. This could also mean taking an additional class to earn the necessary grades and credit. For instance, sometimes a junior or senior may take an extra English elective to make up for a “D” in 9th grade English.

2. Students can also use summer school to accelerate their progress into higher-level courses. For example, students placed in a two-year algebra course in 9th grade can take the first year during 9th grade and the second year during the summer following 9th grade. This would keep them on track to meet their A-G math requirement by taking Geometry in 10th grade, Int. Algebra in 11th, and Pre-calculus in 12th.

3. Students may elect to enroll in a local junior college to successfully complete the course work. I have found many students who struggle at their high school have positive experiences taking classes at local junior colleges. I believe most students have a positive experience for several reasons. Because students are making a commitment to attend additional school in the evening, they have a vested interest in the outcome. Often students find it an empowering to be working with lifelong learners of different ages. Lastly, they are often treated as intelligent and responsible young adults from the outset of class.